What Is The Probate Process?
The Probate Process begins by filing a Petition for Probate in the Probate Court. The cost of filing depends on the size of the Estate.
A hearing is conducted in the Probate Court to appoint the Executor (if there is a will) or Personal Administrator (if there is no will) of the Estate. Following this hearing, an Order for Probate and Letters are issued by the Court which give power to the Executor or Personal Administrator to act on behalf of the Estate.
Depending on the terms of the will and individual facts of the decedent’s estate, the Court may require that an insurance policy be purchased to bond the Executor or Personal Representative.
A formal Inventory and Appraisal of the assets of the Estate must be made. For those assets that cannot be valued on a bank statement, a Probate Referee is appointed by the Court to provide a formal appraisal of the assets at the expense of the Estate.
Creditors must be noticed of the decedent’s passing. This requires publication in a local newspaper, at the expense of the Estate. Further, known Creditors must be specifically notified of the Probate case and given an opportunity to make a claim for the Decedent’s unpaid debts.
The Executor or Personal Representative must determine whether federal and/or state tax returns must be filed and whether tax payments must be paid.
After a four-month waiting period for creditors to make claims, it is possible to close the estate and distribute the assets, subject to approval of the Probate Court. A hearing will be scheduled for the Judge to review the terms of the distribution of the Estate.
The Executor or Personal Representative and the attorney are each paid their statutory fee from the estate and the remainder of the Estate is distributed pursuant to the court-approved Order for Final Distribution of the Estate.
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